Hospitals team-up to help grandmother reclaim independence

When Ruth Michaelis begins to explain the pain and illness she endured after contracting listeriosis from contaminated cheese, the normally cheerful woman becomes solemn and serious. "I wouldn't wish it on anybody, it is absolutely terrible."

For two months Mrs. Michaelis was so weak she could barely sit up in bed without assistance. The sight and smell of food made her violently ill and her swollen face and throat prevented her from swallowing. Before she knew it, the day-to-day activities she had once performed with ease had become impossible without the help of others. The 78-year-old grandmother of four soon realized that her previously active and independent lifestyle had been turned upside down.

Mrs. Michaelis was treated for listeriosis at North York General Hospital and remained under close supervision in their acute care unit for two months. Gradually, Mrs. Michaelis regained some of her strength, but still required further health care to recover completely. "People don't realize how weak you become after lying in bed with limited movement for two months. I needed rehabilitation to help move my legs and learn to walk again."

Many patients like Mrs. Michaelis require rehabilitation following a debilitating illness or accident. However, while awaiting discharge to a more appropriate setting, patients may often stay in acute care for longer than necessary.

The need for a more effective solution prompted North York General Hospital and St. John's Rehab to join forces. In March 2008, the two hospitals integrated their inpatient rehab services into a focused, specialized program at St. John's Rehab.

The innovative program represents one of Ontario 's first major health integration projects since the advent of Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN).

As a result of the partnership, St. John's Rehab is using newly added resources to admit patients with additional medical needs. The hospital is building capacity to provide over 5000 additional days of rehabilitation annually, equal to providing care to almost 14 more patients at any one time.

Following Mrs. Michaelis's acute care treatments, she was transferred to St. John's Rehab where she benefited from the comprehensive and specialized rehabilitation program. The level of care, from the health care team to the hospital's beautiful grounds, contributed to Mrs. Michaelis's recovery. "I had heard great things about St. John's Rehab and I feel very fortunate to have been able to come here."

The rehabilitation program at St. John's Rehab incorporates the expertise of occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurses, physicians, and a variety of other health professionals. Pollina Fong, a physiotherapist with St. John's Rehab, describes the rehabilitation program as "a holistic and multi-disciplinary team approach. We work together to discuss the progress and goals of each patient."

As Mrs. Michaelis completes her road to recovery and prepares to leave the hospital, she is grateful for the specialized care she received. "I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends and starting a new life. Now, I am back to my old self again."